From superheroes to Harry Potter: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) ® at work (and play)

Written by
Clare Grist Taylor, Associate Editor, Changeboard

04 Nov 2019

04 Nov 2019 • by Clare Grist Taylor, Associate Editor, Changeboard

What links: the DC Superhero, Batman; an owl; J K Rowling’s Hermione, and an Irish coffee? 

Well, according to the internet, they all exhibit or reflect the same personality type preferences associated with the classic personality test: the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI)®

When it comes to personality testing, none of us will get very far without encountering MBTI, created by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers back in the 1940s and 1950s. It remains one of the most successful and widely used tests throughout the world. 

How does MBTI work? 

Myers Briggs is an adaptation of the theory of psychological types produced by psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. It uses his idea that personality can be organised into 16 types by identifying the different ways in which individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment

At the heart of the Myers Briggs indicator are four key preferences:

  • Extraversion or Introversion
  • Sensing or Intuition
  • Thinking or Feeling
  • Judging or Perceiving

For each pair, the indicator solicits our preferences in each category. 

More sophisticated banks of questions have been developed to test our preference types but, in essence, we can start with the basic either/or preferences listed below:

Our own personality types are then expressed as a four-letter code, for example:

Batman, the owl, Hermione and the Irish coffee all show preferences for I, N, T and J, giving a personality type of INTJ.

The 16 personality types

In total there are sixteen MBTI personality types:

Full MBTI personality type descriptors can be found here

How can MBTI help us to know ourselves?

It’s important to remember that MBTI measures preferences rather than hard and fast traits.

While most of us will have a set of default preferences, that doesn’t mean that they’re set in stone. We all use all eight styles to a lesser or greater extent depending on context and situation. Think of each pair as a continuum that we travel across all the time. 

For example, just as many of us are right-handed, but still use both hands, even the most introverted of us can learn or adopt extrovert behaviours when we need or want to. 

Nor are some preferences more desirable than others; they are simply a default and a starting point for us to acknowledge and learn more about how we interact with the world and the people around us. 

But thinking about our defaults and the ways in which we can consciously step outside our comfort zones is not without its benefits. Developing an understanding of our own personality preferences, and how they might affect how we interact with, and lead, others who are more or less like us, is a helpful tool for self-awareness and control.  


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